With Microsoft's Office suite now being targeted by hackers, researchers at the French Ministry of Defence say users of OpenOffice software may be at even greater risk from computer viruses.
"The general security of OpenOffice is insufficient," the researchers wrote in a paper entitled In-depth analysis of the viral threats with OpenOffice documents.
"This suite is up to now still vulnerable to many potential malware attacks," they added.
The paper describes four proof-of-concept viruses that illustrate how maliciously encoded macros and templates could be created to compromise systems running the open-source software. "The viral hazard attached to OpenOffice is at least as high as that for the Microsoft Office suite, and even higher when considering some aspects," the researchers wrote.
The report was written by researchers at the French Ministry of Defence's Signal Corps and is set to be published in the Journal in Computer Virology, a Paris-based academic journal for computer scientists.
A number of the problems described in the report have to do with the basic design of the software. For example, OpenOffice does not perform adequate security checks on the software it runs, the researcher said. And because of the extreme flexibility of the free office suite, there are many ways for writers to create malicious macros, the researchers found.
The OpenOffice team has already fixed a software bug discovered by the French researchers, and the two groups are in discussions about how to improve the overall security of the software, said Louis Suarez-Potts, an OpenOffice community manager.
"The one real flaw in the programming logic has been fixed," Suarez-Potts said. "The others are theoretical."